Saturday, May 9, 2020

To be OR Not to be (On Social Media)

I remember the good Orkut days where we used to network and find communities of similar interests, scout for girls looking for friendship (and more). But the level and access was still pretty low and hence not skewed one way or the other. The discussions were mostly harmless and about shared interests or superficial before we took them over on to personal chats where we could talk more than a public platform (remember Scraps on Orkut?).

Then came Facebook, I did not think of it as much till then before a few of my Orkut friends (mostly girls!) went there for 'enhanced privacy' as they called it.

"Only your friends can see your status and we can play games and take quizzes there, It's fun!" said one of my friends. I had to check it out..

Facebook in it's initial days was fun! Friend Quizzes, FarmVille and what not.. You put out a status every 6 hours on what you are watching or listening to and anxiously wait for your friends to respond to your post.. 

Then came Twitter,

Then LinkedIn...

And Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok till we had a choice paralysis..

All offering us the same prospects under the guise of 'Connecting with your loved ones'.. But then was it really worth your time?

Should you quit social media?

What are we turning in to?

I was once waiting in a coffee shop for my wife to turn up and my phone battery was dead with no charger.. I had nothing to do, so I started reading out the menu.. I got bored soon, and then started looking around and seeing people looking down.. Each and every one of them! Some on their phones, some on their laptops and some checking phones even when talking to each other. It felt weird! I was of the same type, so I am no saint here.. But that day I realised the slaves we have become to our digital devices..I started tracking my day on the websites I use on my laptop and the apps I have on my Phone. From that day onwards, my thinking towards using social media shifted when I started to self-analyze..

I started being cynical, pessimistic and thinking about the opportunity costs these things have on your time!

I started seeing my friends and colleagues in new light. Making stuff for Instagram, Tweeting out to show sympathy but not feeling any empathy in person.. What are we turning in to? I thought. Next week I went on a trip with my friends and noticed a similar pattern there. I generally go to a place, sit there or observe and maybe click a picture or two as a memory. But my friends had turned in to something else and it was like I did not recognize them anymore. Picking up spots to go based on how cool they might look on their Instagram or how they can create Stories in those places.. In my view, it just killed the experience of going there itself. 

If you only travel through Instagram, You really are not there for Travel at all.. All you want is attention!

So coming back from that trip, I decided to deactivate Instagram. It was an impulse decision, but something which I always wanted to try! I wanted to try it for an initial of 30 days to see how it goes and observe my behaviour. Also, leading the way to show my wife was also important.

"It is doable, I will show you how it's done!" I said to her. Male ego helps in certain situations

Quitting Instagram:

Stage I: You check your phone for no reason. Every time you have your hands free or are at a break from work, you open your phone but then don't find the Instagram app on there and it registers again!. The initial week is going to be most of this and it gets easier after that.. Rather than uninstalling from my phone, I deactivated Instagram altogether to resist the temptation to go back again in the initial few days.

Stage II: The fear of missing out on updates from your friends is strong.. Till now you are seeking their validation by posting your moments, showing off the next thing on your bucket list.. To close friends and new. Now you cannot and you fear they will forget about you!

Stage III: After the initial few weeks, things start to normalize. Your Instagram app is replaced by another app on the screen.Ensure you have a replacement in mind! For me, it was one of the online learning courses app I had installed and planning to complete one course a month along with Duolingo to learn Spanish. So if it was a small break from something, I opened Duolingo, if it was a long break the online lectures would be a better use of time.

Stage IV: You start to realize who are the friends you want to really know about and care for.. They will reach out to you and be in touch. You can call them once a week or chat on WhatsApp to know about their day and life.. If you have a news to share, you can do it personally. The good old ways work perfectly fine and you develop a sense of offline bonding you never felt before with your friends without thinking about the next Instagram Meme or filter to post to your circle. For me, this has really helped in a more personal communication with people.. I used to chat with people earlier and think I am in touch with them.. However a person to person communication is a much needed change in this day and age to connect with your friends

Why only Instagram?

After being away from Instagram for 2 months, I started to question my time on other platforms as well. I was a pretty heavy Twitter user and had a Facebook account for a 'just in case' scenario.. Twitter was starting to get negative with just too much right wing/left wing stuff on my profile and I had to get rid of that negativity.

So this year, I have de-activated both my Facebook and Twitter accounts.. I sometimes browse Reddit through a pseudo account when I do want a sense of community around. LinkedIn is more of a professional resume for now!

The effects have been mostly positive, but there's still some work to be done..

So why quit social media?

  • To know more about who you are as a person
  • Ending Validation Seeking from your friends or relatives
  • If you are googling on 'how to quit social media' you are already there
  • To Challenge yourself
  • If you want to develop real offline connections
  • To save 2-3 hours of your life everyday and do something meaningful for you instead
  • If you are concerned about your data and tracking
  • For that extra positivity in life
  • You love being anonymous online and post your views
And did I tell you that I work in Digital Marketing and my work involves social media strategy? So quitting the platforms you actually work and depend on wasn't just a personal decision.

But maybe that's a story for another blog post!